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Thursday, 2 January 2014

Here and Now

Most religions present us with the idea of an afterlife. With many, the afterlife is either a reward or punishment for deeds done in one's lifetime. In other religions, the afterlife is just a part of a person's journey.

Most forms of Christianity believe in heaven for the good and hell for the bad though, there is disagreement on whether hell is an eternal punishment. Some believe that after a period of punishment, even the damned are either redeemed or just cease to be. Jehovah's witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists believe that sinners are destroyed rather than toutured forever. Some Christians, believe that heaven cannot be earned by a person's actions instead it is awarded by God's grace.  Mormons believe in "eternal progression" which is best described by Loranzo Snow as,"As man now is, God once was: as God now is, man may be." People who live honourable lives and marry in Mormon temples are eligible for admission to the highest celestial tier.

Like Christians, Muslims also believe in heaven and hell. Both heaven and hell are described vividly in the Quran as eternal outcomes for one's actions.

Judaism lays emphasis on doing good deeds and leaving concerns like afterlife and rewards for God to judge.

Ancient Hindu texts speak of Atman, the eternal, unchanging self which is identical to and a part of the Brahma, the Godhead, the unitary, eternal being transcending all gods and goddesses. Life is suffering and an individual must strive to escape the cycle of reincarnation. Reincarnation is determined by karma. If one dies before reaping karma, then one is reborn. A person has to strive towards moshka which means liberation. It is through liberation that the Atman merges with the Brahma, of which it is always a part - individualism being an illusion.

Bhudda accepted the Hindu tenets of karma and reincarnation. Bhuddists also believe that life is suffering and a person must strive towards Nirvana. Nirvana means extinction; the elimination of all desire. There is no eternal self. Self is an illusion and a person- a bundle of habits, sensations, memories, and desires. Nirvana is attained by abandoning this false sense of self, leaving nothing to reincarnate.

The Greeks believed that Hades and his wife, Persephone ruled the Underworld. The Underworld, a place of misery, hell-like in it's descriptions. The dead are lead by Hermes to the entrance of the Underworld where if they can pay the fare of a gold coin, placed between the lips at the time of burial, they are judged by three judges. Those who can not pay the fare are trapped between worlds eternally. The great pass on to the Elysium Fields.

The Egyptians took a great deal of trouble (those who could afford it) preparing for the afterlife. The pyramids stand testament to their conviction that those who were mummified and buried properly, would be reborn.

Religions share so many beliefs. Karma, heaven and hell, punishment and reward as well as the conviction that all men and women must strive for something better, something beyond just themselves.

Yet, the practitioners of each religion believe that their religion is unique and true. A conviction built on the foundation that other religions are misleading and false.

Perhaps, instead of allowing our individual religions to divide us further and further away from each other; we need to focus on what we share, the truths that can unite us if we allow them the chance. The Afterlife is a promise, a hope which may or may not be, but this life is here, present and demanding of our attention. We are hell and we are heaven; both for ourselves and for those around us.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I like to believe that when you die you just relive your life in another dimension where you are allowed to do better, but not remember life in the last dimension.